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Published On: Tue, Aug 12th, 2014

How Customs under Dikko is transforming Nigeria’s economy

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Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko and Ngozi Okonjo-IwealaThe present administration’s clarion call for all and sundry to enlist as agents of transformation agenda seems to have been heeded by well-meaning ministries, departments and agencies of government (MDAs) with an uncommon zeal; Aminu Imam reports that one of the MDAs under the federal Ministry of Finance that embraced and responded positively to the call is the Nigeria Customer Service, under its present leadership of its Comptroller-General, Abdullahi Dikko Inde.

This drive for a new infrastructural upgrade and economic transformation by President Jonathan is in tandem with the country’s Vision to be among the best 20 economies in the world by year 2020.

While Nigeria is gradually and consistently transforming in many sectors, including the human resources at the various ministries, parastatals and agencies as the engines that drive the human capacity, especially at the federal level, are all keying into the new order of transformation, the Nigeria Customer Service (NCS), a transformed Customs Service, has proved to be a reference point for the Transformation Agenda of the present administration.

For the NCS, the question of embracing the Transformation Agenda was not just to join the crowd, or about political correctness, but proof that the Service was indeed set to contribute its quota to the well-being of the government and the people.

Fully reinventing itself from a bashed, misunderstood, hated and abused agency, the Service, with the support of government, the trading community and stakeholders, has successful embarked and implemented strategic reforms that were anchored under the six- point agenda of the present Comptroller-General of Customs, Alh. Abdullahi Dikko Inde; this has attracted admiration from global organisations and the general public.

Prudently, the Customs management has kept to the tenets of faith it professes. The innovations, transformations and trade facilitation in the NCS stand out as the best in recent times among Customs organisations in the world. This noble stride by the Dikko-led Customs Service has brought honour, pride and recognitions to both the service and the country.

Anybody who has had any close dealing in recent times would observe the amazing transformation of the Service.  The C-G has succeeded in overhauling the agency, to the extent that the operating processes and procedures have become near seamless, to the point where clearing of goods from various ports is no longer the nightmare that it used to be.

It must also be noted that hitherto, many Nigerian’s experiences in the hands of the Customs officials were tales of frustration; i.e., first-hand tales from Nigerians in the Diaspora who suffered similar or even worse experiences. In some of the cases, Customs officials demanded huge bribes and brought all kinds of untold hardships upon the people they were supposed to serve.

Before now, it was common practice for the officials of the Service to abandon their duty posts, preferring instead to run their own private businesses instead of the government.

The end result of these impervious acts caused genuine importers to incur huge costs through demurrage payments and sometimes outright loss of their wares, all of which did incalculable damages to the nation’s image and economy.

Dikko has indeed worked hard to transform the Nigeria Customs into a lethally efficient and modern 21st century Custom Service that could rival other Custom Services in many developed countries of the world, in the areas of service delivery, efficiency and revenue generation.

To achieve this great transformation, many knowledgeable people in the operations of the Service have attributed the many changes to include Dikko’s focus on raising efficiency by building capacity through the training and retraining of officers and men of the Service.

Industry observers have pointed out that in order to get the active buy-in of all officer and men on the current reforms, the CG has continued to ensure enhanced welfare package through increases in salaries and allowances, adequate housings, due promotions and the purchase of adequate operational equipment.

That the operations of the Customs Service have become automated is no longer news. This has tremendously improved efficiency. The automation of many of the operations of the Service, which the CG has introduced, in line with international best practices, is also another feature of the “new improved” Customs Service.

For the Customs, the past two years under the transformation agenda of Jonathan has been a dynamic, productive and exciting time. Operating in accordance with good governance, the NCS has made great progress on subjects of huge interest to the nation’s economic and business community, including among other things, revenue collection, economic competitiveness, supply-chain security, enforcement, capacity building and research.

The significance of its achievements continues to raise the Service’s profile both locally and internationally.

Following the past years’ economic down turn that savaged the world, the Nigeria Customs Service, under the present administration, keyed into the global Customs body ‘Revenue Package’ (RP), which was developed and is still further developing, to meet the members’ needs and provide technical assistance to support implementation.

The effect has been the increasing and surpassing of revenue profile/target from a mere monthly collection of N33 billion to N100 billion.

The RP, which was launched in 2009, was a response to declining revenue collection and trade facilitation obstacles that accompanied the global economic down turn.

It is a comprehensive collection of instruments and tools, which provided administrative and strategic guidance in respect of effective, fair and efficient revenue collection. It also helps to raise importer awareness and compliance with customs laws.

Innovation, they say is the mother of all invention. The Nigerian Customs of today is not only innovative, but pro-active, transformative and futuristic, in tandem with the transformation agenda of the government and that of the global body the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

It is also on record that for the first time, the NCS is being recognized by the both the WCO and WTO on its innovations and transformation.

The NCS is in line with the Reversed ARUSHA declaration regarding good governance and integrity in Customs, recognizing the World Customs Organisation’s policy document by keying into the effective integrity programme of development as it has as well issued   and accepted a comprehensive code of conduct which sets out in very practical and unambiguous terms, the behaviour expected of all customs personnel.

   The Service, with integrity as one of its cardinal agenda, within this strategy, has set for itself an objective of creating an effective and efficient administration, working in the interest of the national economy, civil society and greater openness with strong internal control to tackle corruption in the system.

Suffice to say that the Nigeria Customs under Dikko has been on the path of constant and consistence transformation, redirection, innovation and migration to the 21st Century World Customs Organization and World Trade Organization protocols on international trade and policy documents.

It is also important to note that the free hand, support and encouragement given to the NCS management by the President Jonathan and the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, who is also the Chairman of Board of the Nigeria Customs Service, has paved way for the giant strides recorded by the service.

Okonjo-Iweala stated during the launching of the Nigerian Trade Hub: “This initiative will simplify, harmonize and standardize procedure for cross-border transactions in Nigeria. As a result, it will further reduce delays associated with cross-border trade and enable us attain our goal of 48-hour cargo clearance time at the ports.”

For Dikko Inde, his six-point agenda has fully been actualized within his years of stewardship so far. For ICT: the PAAR and the newly introduced Nigerian Trade Hub (NTH) has come to stay.

For the Nigeria Customs Service, in its over 122 years of existence, this is the first time the evidence of a total change in line with the agenda of the government is been pursued vigorously.

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